In the United States, October has been designated National Apple Month. Just in case that is not good enough, October 21st is National Apple Day. Over the many years of writing this food column, I have shared many a recipe revolving around apples. Pies, cakes, donuts, cider, even as an addition to a main meal dish. I was wondering how I missed out writing about caramel apples, then figured out that I sort of had already. San Juan Record, October 9, 2018 column was on Caramel Apple Cake. ….and so, the trek into caramels and apples now begins.
Turning apples into a candy seems kind of redundant. Apples are basically Mother Nature’s natural candy; crunchy, sweet, and satisfying. A good bite fills the mouth and as one chews, the juices get the taste buds tap dancing. Of course, there are so many varieties of apples available, some not so sweet, but perfect for making treats, like Granny Smiths. There is something about its tartness, mixed with spices and sweeteners, that make the final products irresistible.
Take, for example, Newark, New Jersey candy-maker William W. Kolb. In 1908, he wanted to make something eye catching for his store’s display window. How to show off all those chocolatey Christmas candies, how to make them catch a customer’s eyes? One popular hard candy was red cinnamon; it certainly spiced up the tongue and mouth, but was not very sweet.
Now hold on, cinnamon goes in apple pie, apples are popular during the holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas; what if? Yes, he did it. He made a mixture of those red cinnamon hard candies, melted down with sugar, inserted sticks into the center of apples, and dipped them into the mixture. They rested on wax paper until cooled, adorned with silver ribbon, and nestled amongst piles of chocolates. Here was this bright red, candied apple, drawing eyes to it, and the chocolates keeping it company; of course, sales went up!
Traveling forward in time to 1950, Kraft Foods employee, Dan Walker, experimented with leftover caramels which did not sell during Halloween. There had to be a way to use them, to create a new, and profitable, product for the company. Taking a cue from candied apples, he melted the caramels, dipped the apples, and the recipe for caramel apples was born. The recipe was printed onto new packages of caramels, and for Thanksgiving and Christmas, became the newest treats for adults and children alike.
As time went on, enhancing candied and caramel apples took on a whole new world of experimentation. After dipping the apples, they were rolled in a variety of different candies or chopped nuts; or drizzled with chocolate, vanilla or peanut butter sauces. Only the imagination was the limit. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Cortez or Durango, CO, or Farmington, NM) have a large variety; and make sure to have a napkin at the ready for the drool coming out of your mouth. Our favorite is tiger butter, a mixture of creamy peanut butter, white and semi-sweet chocolates, and caramel encasing a large and juicy Granny Smith apple.
However, not everyone can bite into a caramel apple, so does that mean they will never get to taste one? The only person, who can limit imagination, is yourself. As I mentioned, in the first paragraph, I made a cake to simulate the caramel apple experience. Recently, I experimented with my cinnamon roll and apple pie recipes, and you guessed it, simulated the caramel apple experience. Wow, sounds like a ride at Disneyland; The Caramel Apple Experience!
For the cinnamon rolls, instead of coating the dough with melted butter, I brushed on caramel sauce, then sprinkled cinnamon and chopped up bits of apple. This was going to be super sweet, so the dough was cut into a baker’s dozen (13 for those not in the know), so a smaller roll would be baked. Serve one of these, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, prepare to go to dessert heaven.
Once the pie was cooled though, a quarter cup of more caramel sauce was drizzled over the crust. How good was it? Roy asked me to please hide the pie, as he could not stop eating it, and did not want to go into a diabetic coma.
So, there you have it, the wonderful world of caramels and apples. What, you do not have a recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls or apple pie? Shocking! Do not fret, my recipes are available on my food blog, or you can do a search of my articles at the San Juan Record website.
Enjoy National Apple Month!